Santa Croce and the Statue of Liberty to become partners

Twinning between New York and Florence monuments

Helen Farrell, Anna McGee
July 8, 2016 - 10:48

A partnership is being planned to celebrate the sculptural and symbolic connections between Manhattan’s Statue of Liberty and Santa Croce’s The Liberty of Poetry funerary monument.



Santa Croce’s The Liberty of Poetry funerary monument by Pio Fedi Santa Croce’s The Liberty of Poetry funerary monument by Pio Fedi



What do the two statues have in common?


The striking similarity has long been noted between New York’s iconic Statue of Liberty and Pio Fedi’s lesser-known The Liberty of Poetry, designed at the same time for the Basilica of Santa Croce. Both depict proud women in flowing robes and spiked headdresses, thrusting their right arm into the air. Indeed, it has been suggested that the French sculptor who designed the Statue of Liberty, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, was inspired by maquettes and drawings of Fedi’s as-yet-unfinished monument when he visited Florence in the 1860s during the Franco-Prussian war. The connections between the two statues are more than visual, however, and now it is hoped that a new partnership will honour their symbolic similarities as well.



What will the partnership entail?


Diana Pardue, the US National Park Service’s chief museums officer in charge of the Statue of Liberty, and Giuseppe De Micheli, director of Opera di Santa Croce, recently met to discuss the joint initiative. Pardue explains the multi-faceted symbolism of the American monument: it is variously associated with national pride and independence, the abolishment of slavery and the welcoming of immigrants, and always with the sacrosanct concept of freedom.


De Micheli realises that the ideas behind this "cultural lighthouse" can be traced back to the Santa Croce monument: commemorating playwright and hero of the Italian Risorgimento Giovanni Battista Niccolini, the Italian funerary statue’s serene female figure is representative of both creative liberty and liberty from foreign occupation, symbolised by the broken chains she holds up. De Micheli believes that the Statue of Liberty has, in turn, helped develop the role of Santa Croce’s sculpture: Fedi’s The Liberty of Poetry has served to welcome Florence’s "temporary immigrants", its tourists, he says, especially from other continents. For Americans, it is a reminder of home.


A creative bond exists between the two statues. Yet this bond extends beyond the artworks themselves, as it helps link Italy and the US, even Europe and the New World, by a common ethos of freedom. De Micheli hopes that this partnership across continents will, in a small way, highlight an internationally shared humanity.


This special relationship will be honoured by a bronze medal to be produced this year, likely along with a publication further explaining the project: on one face, New York’s Statue of Liberty will be depicted, while the other will display Florence’s The Liberty of Poetry. Two sides of the same coin.

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